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Mitt Romney pivots to attack mode, swings hard at Rick Santorum

February 17, 2012|By Seema Mehta
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez )

Reporting from Boise, Idaho — Mitt Romney finally slashed at Republican rival Rick Santorum on the stump Friday, the latest politician to stand between the former Massachusetts governor and the GOP nomination.

“If you want a fiscal conservative, you can’t vote for Rick Santorum because he’s not a deficit hawk,” Romney told a few hundred rowdy supporters gathered in a modular-home factory here. “He says he’s not a deficit hawk. I am.  I’m a fiscal conservative. I’ll balance the budget.”


Romney appeared in Idaho less than three weeks before the state holds its first-ever caucuses, with 32 delegates at stake. Santorum is surging, coming off three state victories and also showing momentum in key states such as Ohio and Michigan. Romney urged the attendees to caucus for him in Idaho at 7 p.m. on March 6.

“I need your vote because I want to be president,” Romney said.

But the former Massachusetts governor has faced a flurry of Republican rivals who have risen in  the polls to challenge the conventional wisdom that Romney is the likely nominee. They have all flamed out, either because of campaign mistakes or because of multimillion-dollar television attacks by Romney and his supporters.

As Santorum has surged, Romney’s campaign has gone on the offensive against the former Pennsylvania senator, but he has avoided mentioning Santorum by name while speaking to voters in recent days. That changed Friday, when Romney launched a frontal assault.

“We’ll all hear people talk about what they’ll do to try and trim the size of the federal government,” Romney said. “You have to look at people’s records as well as their words.”

He urged voters to consider Santorum’s nearly two decades in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“During that time, the size of the federal government doubled,” Romney said. “By the way, he voted to raise the debt ceiling five different times without compensating cuts. And he’s a big proponent of earmarks – he voted for billions of dollars of earmarks including the bridge to nowhere.”

Romney did not overtly slap at Newt Gingrich, though he did say that if were elected president he wouldn’t “embarrass you in the White House,” a statement that could be seen as a slap at the former House speaker’s messy personal life.

Romney continued his attack on President Obama, arguing that the president’s policies have not improved the nation’s economy.

“This president has failed the American people,” Romney said.

He argued that the president has failed to recognize that the American people’s entrepreneurial spirit is what makes the nation great.

“By the way, for those who have been successful and achieved greatness … they don’t make us poorer,” Romney said. “They make us better off. We celebrate success in this country; we don’t demonize it like this president does.”

seema.mehta@latimes.com

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